By Dr. Jan Hittelman

One of the most amazing experiences as a parent is witnessing language development in our young children. From no language, to first words (“no” usually being one of the first!), to sentences, all in a relatively short time, typically within the first three years of life. The onset and development of language is a complex combination of neurological development and environmental factors.

Parents can make a significant contribution to their children’s language development by enriching their language opportunities. Examples of this would include: reading together, playing word games, stimulating discussions through a variety of new experiences, being a good listener, asking questions, providing writing opportunities, and modeling good language usage.
Language development is a critical precursor to school success. A child with significant language delays will inevitably struggle with academic activities. This is because the vast majority of school tasks are language-based. In addition to reading, tasks that involve spelling, oral and written expression are all language-based.

Language skills are typically divided into two categories: expressive language and receptive language. Expressive language is how we express our thoughts and feelings, while receptive language is our understanding of information that is shared by others. In addition there is speech development, which involves the physical act of speech and includes skills like enunciation and articulation.

Because of the profound impacts of language development on school success, most school districts provide early speech/language screenings to identify those that require corrective services. The good news is that Speech and Language Pathologists can often reduce these deficits quite effectively. The earlier these problems are identified, the easier and faster they typically are to remediate.

If you have concerns about your child’s speech/language development, consider having an assessment by a Speech and Language Pathologist. Through using standardized speech/language testing materials, strengths and weaknesses can be pinpointed to help determine if remediation is needed.